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More on Private Milk Sharing

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Last week, a made a post or two about private milk sharing and the black market for breastmilk. In those posts, I talked about how I could understand a mother's desire to give her child breastmilk, but that I just couldn't see the safety in getting it anywhere but from one of the HMBANA milk banks. Since then, I've had a chance to do a bit more digging and I'm starting to change my mind somewhat...

While I am still appalled at the idea of selling breast milk...mostly because it just reeks of profit from other's grief and has the potential to be so risky...I'm starting to warm up to the idea of private milk donation. The first thing I saw that challenged my point of view was the Feed My Baby site that was put up by Jennifer Connel, the woman that couldn't breastfeed her children because she'd had a double mastectomy. Connel set up a network of donor moms across the United States, paid for all of the necessary testing, the shipping and bought a home pasteurizer to process the milk once she received it. Basically, she set up her own mini-version of a milk bank.

There's a big difference between that and simply having strangers ship you their breast milk.

Today, I had an email from Kelly Faulkner, who runs MilkShare.com, a site dedicated to helping families learn how to safely set up their own private human milk donor network. There's some great information on the site, including the obvious suggestion that you need to find a Ped that's willing to work with you on this and help you figure out the screening requirements for your donors.

Breast milk is one of those things that is supply and demand...many moms can create quite a bit of extra...wouldn't it be great to see this type of thing grow to where anyone that needed breastmilk could get it?


  1. Anonymous the SmockLady | 11:17 AM |  

    This is a strange topic for me. Not because I think it's wrong, by George, if I were still making it someone could HAVE it. What makes it strange is that I don't understand it completely. I know all about the benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk and I nursed five babies (so far). What I don't understand is how pasteurized breastmilk is better than formula. It's total ignorance on my part. I need to do some reading up on it I know, but when pasteurizing the milk to kill any bad bacteria or viruses or whatever, does that not also get rid of or kill all that good stuff too? I am by no means trying to lessen the use of breastmilk in any form. With my limited knowledge, I personally would be more inclined to buy (or ask for donated) breastmilk and run tests and keep that which is good in it's original form and throw out any that is contaminated.

    I know first hand that there are many reasons that mothers may pump, whether exclusively or not. I pumped almost exclusively for our first child while she nursed a few times a week. There were medical issues with that child and nursing caused issues we could have lived through, but with today's options pumping made our life easier, for those medical reasons. Had I known then what I learned before giving birth to our second child I would have struggled more with her actually nursing.

    Breastmilk is an ever changing, always adapting, medicine chest. Breastmilk has so many healing abilities: cuts, scrapes, burns, rashes, eye infections, it kills cancer, etc. but it's most incredible ability to adjust to the baby's internal needs is so God-awing to me. When the baby has a cold and latches on to mommy, those little viral germs pass into the breast and mommy's milk immediately begins to make the antibodies to defeat all those nasty little germs and by the next feeding baby gets a personally defined medicine just for her.

    I know that there are other wonderful properties of breastmilk that occur without this direct contact and I do not think less of any mother or baby that gets the milk supply from expression. I just don't understand the pasteruization process for breastmilk and how that milk is better than formula.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 11:23 AM |  

    The WHO puts the feeding preference in this order...

    1.) Direct nursing at mother's breast
    2.) Expressed milk from mother
    3.) Expressed donor milk
    4.) Formula

    As far as I understand it, pasteurization DOES destroy some of the beneficial properties of breast milk, but it also destroys the dangerous bacteria that could come with improperly handled breast milk. (Let's say someone doesn't clean their pump enough, or isn't using sterile containers.)

    The "bad" that is cleared out during pasteurization outweighs the "good" that is lost.

    Thus...pasteurized milk, while inferior to milk straight from the tap, is still superior to formula which contains zero antibodies and zero "milk magic."

    Hope that helped...

  3. Anonymous the SmockLady | 3:21 PM |  

    Thanks, Jennifer. Yes, it does help clear it up. And may I add that even though I don't know all the ends and outs. I would opt to give my child the donor milk over formula anyway; formula is just so artificial. I wish I had had the income to provide donated breastmilk the times I needed it instead of the formula that they got. And the sad thing about it all is that the peds, in general, don't let moms know about donor milk. They just push formula, formula, formula. It drives me crazy! But then that's the idea here istn't it? It's up to us to educate all those other moms and moms-to-be. Sad.

  4. Blogger Amanda | 8:15 AM |  

    I shared breastmilk with a coworker who weaned her 6 month old so she could start TTC (she's 42 so in her opinion, time is of the essence). Unfortunately, she didn't tolerate my BM very well because I eat dairy. Mom was hoping she had outgrown the intolerance by this point but she appeared to react adversely to my milk.

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:03 PM |  

    Our 3 mos old adopted daughter has been thriving on donated milk. When our supply is low and I need to add formula, she immediately gets colic and reflux and it is awful to watch her suffer. Because it takes several donors to keep her in milk full time,if anyone has an excess supply of properly frozen breast milk I would appreciate corresponding to see if we could connect. Due to obvious health concerns, recent labwork results are necessary and can either be obtained from OB visits or scheduled and usually paid for by insurance when you express an interest in donating. All packing and shipping expenses would be paid for the donated milk promptly and I can advise on good ways to ship.
    It would be a true blessing and something my family would always remember. I will watch for postings.
    With appreciation for your help,

  6. Anonymous milkladen | 8:06 PM |  

    I had a preemie on 12/25/07 and pumped vigilently. Unfortunately, my son was too small and frail to handle the breast milk. I have a couple thousand cc's of frozen milk that I would like to give to someone. If anyone is interested please let me know.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:42 AM |  

    I'm glad to see people warming up to the idea of sharing breastmilk. It is a wonderful gift for many families. We personally accept donor milk for our daughter as I make only half of what she needs, and I have such peace that she is getting what is best for her body. We use the www.milkshare.com website as our resource for finding donors in our area. I have made several close friends from this resource. I will admit when she was first born it took me an entire month to wrap my mind around feeding her someone else's milk. Now that we do, I couldn't be more pleased. I can also say there is a lot of controversy in pasteurizing breast milk. I want to give my daughter the freshest most alive substance she can have and pasteurizing turns a living substance into a dead one. Once I did my research and properly screened my donors, I felt comfortable with not pasteurizing. Breask milk is always always always better than formula, and what is safe for one baby is most likely safe for another baby. I have also found another great resource that gives information on milksharing called www.theholisticparent.org if anyone is interested.

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